Squalicorax Shark
Science & Technology

The City of David and the 80 Million-Year-Old Sharks’ Teeth Mystery

Artist’s impression of a Squalicorax shark. Credit score: Dimitri Bogdanov

Scientists have discovered an unexplained cache of fossilized shark tooth in an space the place there ought to be none — in a 2900-year-old web site in the City of David in Jerusalem. That is a minimum of 80 km from the place these fossils can be anticipated to be discovered. There isn’t any conclusive proof of why the cache was assembled, however it might be that the 80 million-year-old tooth had been half of a group, courting from simply after the loss of life of King Solomon. The similar staff has now unearthed related unexplained finds in different components of historic Judea.

Presenting the work at the Goldschmidt Convention, lead researcher, Dr. Thomas Tuetken (College of Mainz, Institute of Geosciences) mentioned:

“These fossils should not of their authentic setting, so that they have been moved. They had been in all probability beneficial to somebody; we simply don’t know why, or why related objects have been present in multiple place in Israel.”

The tooth had been discovered buried in materials used to fill in a basement earlier than conversion to a big Iron-Age home. The home itself was located in the City of David, one of the oldest components of Jerusalem, discovered these days in the largely Palestinian village of Silwan. They had been discovered along with fish bones thrown away as meals waste 2900 years in the past, and different infill materials similar to pottery. Intriguingly, they had been discovered along with a whole bunch of bullae — objects used to seal confidential letters and packages — implying a potential reference to the administrative or governing class sooner or later. Usually archaeological materials is dated in accordance with the circumstances the place it’s discovered, and so at first it was assumed that the tooth had been up to date with the relaxation of the discover.

Fossilised Squalicorax tooth Nr. #07815 from the Jerusalem web site. Credit score: Omri Lernau

Dr. Tuetken mentioned:

“We had at first assumed that the shark tooth had been stays of the meals dumped practically 3000 years in the past, however once we submitted a paper for publication, one of the reviewers identified that the one of the tooth might solely have come from a Late Cretaceous shark that had been extinct for a minimum of 66 million years. That despatched us again to the samples, the place measuring natural matter, elemental composition, and the crystallinity of the tooth confirmed that certainly all shark tooth had been fossils. Their strontium isotope composition signifies an age of about 80 million years. This confirmed that each one 29 shark tooth present in the City of David had been Late Cretaceous fossils — up to date with dinosaurs. Greater than that, they weren’t merely weathered out of the bedrock beneath the web site, however had been in all probability transported from afar, presumably from the Negev, a minimum of 80 km away, the place related fossils are discovered.”

Since the first finds, the staff has discovered different shark tooth fossils elsewhere in Israel, at the Maresha and Miqne websites. These tooth are additionally prone to have been unearthed and moved from their authentic websites.

Dr. Tuetken mentioned:

“Our working speculation is that the tooth had been introduced collectively by collectors, however we don’t have something to verify that. There are not any put on marks which could present that they had been used as instruments, and no drill holes to point that they might have been jewellery. We all know that there’s a marketplace for shark’s tooth even right now, so it might be that there was an Iron Age development for accumulating such objects. This was a interval of riches in the Judean Courtroom. Nevertheless, it’s too simple to place 2 and 2 collectively to make 5. We’ll in all probability by no means actually make certain.”

The shark tooth which have been recognized come from a number of species, together with from the extinct Late Cretaceous group Squalicorax. Squalicorax, which grew to between 2 and 5 metres lengthy, lived solely throughout the Late Cretaceous interval (which was the similar interval as the late dinosaurs), so acts as a reference level in courting these fossils.

Commenting, Dr. Brooke Crowley (College of Cincinnati) mentioned:

“This analysis by Dr. Tuetken and colleagues is a wonderful instance of why it’s so essential to method a analysis query with as few assumptions as potential, and how generally we’ve to revisit our preliminary assumptions. It additionally highlights how useful it may be to use a number of instruments to reply a analysis query. On this case, the authors used each strontium and oxygen isotopes, in addition to x-ray diffraction and hint component evaluation to determine probably age and origin of the fossil tooth. It was a monumental quantity of work however these efforts have revealed a way more fascinating story about the individuals who lived on this area in the previous. I’m very excited by this work and hope that in the future, we would have the ability to unravel the thriller of why these fossil tooth are being recovered from cultural deposits.”

Reference: “Strontium and Oxygen Isotope Analyses Reveal Late Cretaceous Shark Teeth in Iron Age Strata in the Southern Levant” by Thomas Tütken, Michael Weber, Irit Zohar, Hassan Helmy, Nicolas Bourgon, Omri Lernau, Klaus Peter Jochum and Man Sisma-Ventura, 17 December 2020, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2020.570032

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